For as long as boxing has been around, there have always been set-ups; that is, fights against tomato cans. Some fights are between decent fighters and hapless wannabes with no chance in hell of winning and others are between good fighters and fighters seemingly on the payroll, so to speak. Thai fighters are regularly criticized for the caliber of their opponents, often justifiably so. Thailand isn’t the only country this takes place though; Mexico, the Philippines, Japan and Korea all have fighters who take tune-ups against less than stellar opponents.

In March of 2003, the Philippines beloved Manny Pacquiao faced Serikzhan Yeshmangbetov (5-5-1, 3 KOs) in Manila. Never heard of Serikzhan Yeshmangbetov? Not many have, but the Kazakhstani fighter actually scored a knockdown in the fourth round. Pacman dispatched of Yeshmangbetov the fifth.

Korean champion In Jin Chi faced the 2 wins 3 losses Thongcharoen Mahasap Condo of Thailand around the same time in Korea. Chi was 26-2 and the bout was a tune-up for his shot at the vacant WBC featherweight championship fight against Michael Brodie. Chi took the Thai out in four.

Thongcharoen Mahasap Condo was also the opponent for Japan’s Takashi Koshimoto. Koshimoto is scheduled to meet In Jin Chi on the 29th of this month for the WBC featherweight title. Koshimoto was 34-1-2 when he fought Thoncharoen Mahasap, who was 2-6. The bout before this Koshimoto faced Ratanasak Saktawee, 3-3, of Thailand.

Back in 1999, the great Marco Antonio Barrera, who was 49-2 at the time, squared off against Cesar Najera, 2-1. The bout was declared a non-contest after Najera was discovered to be his sparring partner.

Thailand isn’t the only place you see ridiculous fights and mismatches…

The fight scene in Asia, and more specifically Thailand, is not quite the same as in North America or Europe. The first and most notable difference is the majority of fight cards in Thailand are free to spectators, both live and on TV. Also, aside from the occasional soccer or cricket match, there are no pay-per-view events in Thailand. Pay-per view fights are shown on Thai TV or cable channels such as Super Sport. ESPN Friday Night Fights, Classic fights, and the old USA Tuesday night fights are shown on various cable channels but most importantly, boxing in Thailand is still shown on a regular basis on Thai TV.

In the past, the only three sports in Thailand were boxing, Muay Thai and soccer. Now with sports like snooker, tennis, weightlifting, bodybuilding and badminton taking a share of the market, promoters need to be more creative and work even harder to make a profit.

The free shows and televised events keep boxing fans in touch with the fight scene and their favorite fighters, allowing promoters to build the name of their fighters as well are their own. Revenues are generated from sponsors like Red Bull (Energy drink), M-150 (Energy drink), Twins (Boxing and Muay Thai equipment), 3K Battery (Batteries) and a few others. These sponsors donate their products and envelopes of cash to the fighters in exchange for invaluable publicity.

Boxing is and always has been a business. Promoters know they need to get more than just one or two fights out of their fighter in order to make the sort of money that keeps them solvent. In order to do so, promoters need to milk the cash cow dry. Fighters have a limited period of earning potential which can end at any time; promoters have no guarantee of how long that period will be so they need to protect their investment and maximize their profits.

While boxers in North America and Europe fight once or twice, possibly three times per year, most Thais fight an average of three to six fights per year. One or two of the opponents might be classified as worthy adversaries with the rest being tune-ups. Herein lies the dilemma; just what is an acceptable tune-up?

Unfortunately what is deemed acceptable by promoters and what is deemed acceptable by fans is not always one in the same. Thais are repeatedly given opponents who have little chance of defeating them in between their big fights or title defenses. This helps get the needed rounds of work in with little to no risk of blowing the bigger and better paydays that lie ahead. They acquire real-fight experience while at the same time remaining in the public eye and hopefully making money for the promoter.

The downside to this approach is this real-fight experience is always gained from within the confines of Thailand and against fighters “on the payroll.” On the payroll simply means promoters know they can use certain fighters over and over again without having to worry about them disrupting their plans. They are journeymen who tend to lose far more than they win or who are willing to fight against a Thai who they know is far better than them.

Thais have a habit of losing when outside of Asia and this approach is at least one reason why. In Thailand, the opponents are predominately from the Philippines with others coming from Africa, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and China. A closer inspection of the Thai fighter’s records reveals many of the same opponents. For instance, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam has fought and defeated Mark Sales of the Philippines three times. Sales has fought Fahlan Sakreerin, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pramuansak Posuwan (twice), Sairun Suwansil and Sod Looknongyangtoy, all within an eighteen month period, defeating none of them.

Fighters with no recorded, verifiable fights on their ledger from China, Kazakhstan and even Japan have taken on top ranked fighters and champions, and in some instances they’ve even fought for ABCO (WBC) and World titles. Matching a fighter who has less than five or ten fights against a former world champion who has sixty or seventy fights isn’t considered a tune-up in most cases; it’s regarded as a mismatch. Perhaps Jose Sulaiman can explain how this equates to his dedication to safety in boxing.

So what’s the deal with the Thais and mismatches?

I wish I knew…

One More Thing

The sanctioning bodies of boxing are often, and very deservedly, ripped to miniscule shreds by fans and the media. Once in a great while they may actually do something good for the sport, however these instances are few and far between; they almost always deserve far worse than the toothless tongue-lashing they receive. In the last few years, the WBC and El Presidente Sulaiman have often been the target of many a journalist, but the other organizations are equally shameless as is illustrated by the recent actions of the IBF.

According to the Herald News of New Jersey, the International Boxing Flunkies withheld its sanctioning fee from the late Leavander Johnson's purse. Johnson, the proud warrior who died in his very first defense against Jesus Chavez, paid out 3% ($4500) of his $150,000 purse to the IBF. Instead of showing a smidgeon of compassion and bestowing the fee to the fund established to benefit Johnson’s four children, the Imaginary Boxing Federation callously kept the fee. Considering all the skullduggery the IBF has engaged in over the years, $4500 would have been a small price to pay to exhibit some kindness on the part of their organization.

Upcoming Fights

January 9, 2006 – Pacifico, Yokohama, Japan

Eagle Kyowa vs. Ken Nakajima
WBC Minimumweight Title

Katsushige Kawashima vs. Petchklongpai Sor Thantip

January 15, 2006 – IMP Hall, Osaka, Japan

Nobuto Ikehara vs. Medgoen Singsurat

January 17, 2006 – Bangkok, Thailand

Denkaosan Kaovichit vs. Jojo Bardon

January 21, 2006 – Las Vegas, NV, USA

Erik Morales vs. Manny Pacquiao
WBC International Super Featherweight Title
WBC Super Featherweight Title Eliminator

January 25, 2006 – Amnartcharoen, Thailand

Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo vs. Nathan Barcelona

Pongsith Wiangwiset vs. Jesus Mazuka

January 29, 2006 – Kyuden Gym, Fukuoka, Japan

In Jin Chi vs. Takashi Koshimoto
WBC Featherweight Title

January 31, 2006 – Bangkok, Thailand

Kaichon Sor Vorapin vs. Rocky Fuentes

February 27, 2006 – Central Gym, Osaka, Japan

Masamori Tokuyama vs. Jose Navarro
WBC Super Flyweight Title

March 4, 2006 – Tenggarong City, Borneo Island, Indonesia

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Chris John
WBA Featherweight Title

March 18, 2006 – Manila, Philippines

Z Gorres vs. Waenpetch Chuwatana
Vacant OPBF Super Flyweight Title

March 25, 2006 – World Memorial Hall, Kobe, Japan

Hozumi Hasegawa vs. TBA
WBC Bantamweight Title

Results

January 7, 2006 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Jorge Linares KO1 Jeffrey Onate

December 30, 2005 – Talibon, Bohol, PI

Bart Abapo TKO6 Rex Marzan
Philippine Light Welterweight Title

December 28, 2005 – Tagum City, Davao Del Norte, PI

Wilfredo Neri KO7 Cris Besmanus
Philippine Super Bantamweight Title

December 27, 2005 – Chumphon, Thailand

Pramuansak Posuwan UD12 Anthony Mathias
Vacant WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight Title

Terdsak Jandaeng UD6 Hussein Pazzi